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Lessons to Teach Young Women on this International Day of the Girl

Lessons to Teach Young Women on this International Day of the Girl

Despite the fact that we live in a more progressive and equal global society than ever before, progress for adolescent girls has been lagging behind in several areas, with COVID-19 further widening these gaps and magnifying inequalities.

In my previous articles, I have highlighted how for many girls growing up, confidence becomes a conundrum as they experience the unnerving tendrils of self-doubt wrapping around their brains, which later impacts their professional lives, too. However, it’s time to change the narrative and untie knots of the past that have severely limited the potential of our girls.

Here are a few lessons we must pass on to the younger generation in order for them to break the shackles of social conditioning that have given rise to faulty confidence meters.

Accept praise gracefully.

When you are recognized for your accomplishments, do not shrug it off. Recognizing team effort is important; however, reporting your accomplishments with pride instead of externalizing them is even more crucial.

Documenting your successes and the exact steps you took to get there will help you realize that what you achieved wasn’t just luck. You may have been in the right place at the right time, but opportunity favors those who are most prepared.

It may not be much according to your own self-imposed, lofty goals, but somewhere, someone thinks you have done a great job. Don’t deny or belittle that.

[Related: 5 Ways Leaders Can Show Appreciation for Their Administrative Assistants]

Finish what you are saying.

As women, we are accustomed to traditional female modes of communication, which often underpin compliance and modesty. In the recent Vice Presidential debate, when Kamala Harris said "I am speaking," every woman who’s ever been talked over could relate.

Your choice of words and tone should demonstrate that your opinion is valid, your viewpoint legitimate, and your recommendations and thoughts worthy. As Amy Cuddy suggests in her famous TedTalk, don’t leave the situation feeling you didn’t show them who you are, but rather leave that situation feeling like "I really showed them who I am."

Reconsider your perception of failure.

Perfection doesn’t exist, therefore you can’t achieve it. Instead of obsessively toiling toward intangible ideals, learn to respect your own potential and acknowledge you have a lot to offer, which is often more than good enough.

Do not lay low to shield yourself from scrutiny and judgement. Remember, it’s okay to be wrong, to fail, to not know everything. Being wrong or unknowledgeable doesn’t make you fake or non-deserving.

The fact that you are trying even when you are unsure makes you admirable and authentic. Remember, you can do one of two things: Either change how you feel about the situation or change the situation itself.

Stop owning other people’s stuff.

Let others manage their responsibilities themselves. Relinquishing control is not admitting defeat. Rather, it’s maximizing the potential of your support system and giving yourself a much-needed break. Never hesitate to press the pause button and breathe.

Stay visible by promoting yourself.

Do not sit passively and wait to be noticed nor wait for opportunities to drop into your lap. Raise your visibility and showcase your knowledge in every way you can.

Do not fall for the Tiara Syndrome, which involves waiting for others to notice you and place a tiara on your head. In an ideal and perfect meritocracy that would be the case, but unfortunately that’s not how it works. You need to make yourself visible and be willing to demand your own tiara.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.

When you choose to be vulnerable, others might not accept or appreciate it. People might reject you or desert you. Some may even respond harshly, but if you keep things in perspective – i.e. make it a point to accept all of that negativity with a pinch of salt – then you will always emerge stronger, no matter how extreme the reaction.

You need to trust yourself enough to withstand any criticism or opposition in the face of vulnerability. If you believe that you have the emotional strength to calm your temporarily jangled nerves, you will be able to confront your vulnerability with courage and determination.

[Related: Learn How to Stop Hiding and be Your Authentic Self]

Stop being the "yes" woman.

Sometimes you want to say "no," but you end up saying "yes" and this later becomes a source of regret and fatigue. Nothing will free up your time more than learning how to embrace the power of "no."

Start training your brain to habitually say "no," proactively craft a few "opt out" responses to favors or requests that you do not wish to oblige. Then rehearse those responses so you’re comfortable actually saying them when the time comes to prioritize yourself.

We tend to be people-pleasers often at our own expense - cancel your "guilt account" and define boundaries even if they seem trivial to others.

Choose your battles wisely.

Consider letting go of unintentional slights or acts of prejudice committed in situations where you have little or no stakes involved; a typical example would include online trolling. For the more serious and deliberate acts of prejudice, take control of your emotions first, then detach yourself from the situation and proceed to address it in the most effective way possible from a place of non-reactivity.

If any behavior repeatedly makes you feel uncomfortable, then you are probably not overreacting. Ignoring or avoiding the abuser may seem safe, but it’s actually more harmful; trying to appease the abuser or complying with him is not a solution, either.

Don’t hesitate to disagree.

People who carry themselves with confidence and speak their mind typically get noticed more. Don’t hesitate to disagree when it is warranted, but as RBG recommends, don’t be disagreeable.

Sparking discussions can be heathy, but triggering disagreements without the use of tact can work against you. So although subtlety may seem compromising, it will yield better results than going after something, all out.

Don’t be afraid to ask for more.

When it’s time to ask for a promotion or pay raise, don’t feel intimidated – substantiate your case with evidence and do not hesitate to put yourself forward. Prepare your "asks" in advance and furnish yourself with data that will back your case.

Furthermore, convert your requests into statements. Most bosses are too busy to figure out what the most equitable project allocation is. Those team members who can vocalize which opportunities and projects they prefer are always considered first.

Be self-accepting.

Self-acceptance is critical if you want to achieve your career goals – your internal self-evaluation can sometimes be fastidious, but afford yourself the same leverage you afford others. No amount of external validation will ever be enough if you cannot first accept and love yourself.

Avoid being susceptible to seize any chance to think badly of yourself. Trim those debilitating feelings and behaviors to size and then recalibrate your confidence compass.

Bear in mind that the way to the top is never easy. There are many bumps and detours on your journey that will discourage you, but dig deep and be resilient. Trust yourself to get there.

[Related: To Shatter Glass Ceilings, Spread These Four Messages to Young Women]

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Hira Ali is an author, writer, speaker, and executive coach focused on women’s and ethnic leadership development, closing the gender gap, and breaking the glass ceiling. She's the Founder of Advancing Your Potential and International Women Empowerment Events and Co-Founder of Career Excel and The Grey Area. Contact her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook. You can buy her book here.


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